Budget creeps forward, but state faces revenue challenges

The Legislature is back at work after the Memorial Day weekend. Even though it was a wet weekend, Memorial Day is a special day of remembrance.

The Legislature is making some progress at this point. The budget details are being refined but tax proposals are slow in coming. As the session gets late, especially as we approach the first of June, more members are absent as they need to get back to their businesses or jobs.

Last week I discussed some of the many implications of various taxes. As expected, I received several comments on taxes as well. One thing is certain: when taxes are considered, nearly everyone approaches the issue from the point of view of how the various proposals affect their own pocketbook. Some think sales tax is best, others income tax, but almost no one is in favor of higher property taxes.

Certainly sales tax is the simplest to implement and administer, but the Legisla­ture needs to consider how high is too high. If Kansas has the highest sales tax in the region, how much business will be lost by people going to the neighboring state to buy products, or possibly going to the Internet even more to purchase their items?

Of course, people are supposed to declare those items to the Department of Reve­nue and pay the tax, but that does not always happen. To add to the discussion, the federal government must act in order to require sales taxes between states on Internet sales.

Although the budget continues to be scrutinized for potential reductions, the main focus is to find a tax plan that could pass the House and Senate. In a procedural move, a tax committee bill was finally put into conference for further work. It may take a several trial votes before anything is finalized.

Regardless of what may occur this year for raising taxes, there are at least two other issues that may require additional tax increases in the future.

First, we are waiting on a decision from the courts regarding school funding. Several of us are thinking a special session may be in the cards to remedy that.

Second, the Kansas Department of Transporta­tion will run low on funds in 2018, so additional taxes may be required to replace the $370 million per year that is being transferred from the highway fund to the state general fund. Of course, we do not know now exactly how these issues will unfold, but the possibility of tax implications is real.

I was one of 16 House members at the National Bio and Agrodefense Facility groundbreaking in Manhat­tan. The facility is a huge investment in Homeland Security, especially as it pertains to food safety and security in the U.S. It was an honor to be a part of bringing a world-class facility of this type to Kansas.

My understanding is the House and Senate leadership and the governor may be close to a deal that could bring the session to a close. I don’t have details but will wait patiently for details to be revealed.

Hopefully, the inequity of allowing certain businesses to have no taxes will not be allowed. After all, a broader base helps keep taxes lower in all categories. It’s always difficult to make quick decisions on major issues such as this, but is part of finishing our business.

Please continue to provide feedback as you hear about the various proposals. There likely will be several stutter steps before a solution is found that can be passed. Possibly the solution will include a variety of taxes, but any solution may take a few more days.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.